Protecting Your Remote Workforce from Cybersecurity Threats

[Editor’s Note: Especially in the past few years, cybercrime has skyrocketed at an alarming rate as criminals increasingly find opportunities to target businesses, causing unimaginable chaos from data breaches to attacks on the supply chain. To help businesses shore up their digital defenses, we’re publishing a 5-part series about cybersecurity, covering topics from the benefits of the cloud to multi-factor authentication. In part 5 of this series, we look at how to protect your business when your employees work remotely. To view the other parts of this series, scroll down to the end of this article.]

Protecting Your Remote Workforce from Cybersecurity Threats – Part 5 of 5

Is your remote workforce protected from cybersecurity threats? While offering employees a work-at-home schedule can lead to greater flexibility and, in many cases, a streamlined workflow, it pays to consider the risks of a decentralized staff. Doing so can help you prevent costly cybersecurity threats from derailing your important work.

The best way to keep your organization safe is to start from the ground up, showing employees how to protect themselves from potential scams and phishing attempts. The following are six quick steps your organization can take to limit the threat of potential cybersecurity attacks.

1. Encourage employees to use protected internet connections 

Not all internet connections are created the same. Unsecured WiFi connections from public places such as coffee shops and airports can provide scammers easy access to company files and data.

By contrast, private WiFi connections secured through encryption systems—such as a company VPN—are much safer. For these reasons, it’s worth updating your work-at-home guidelines to ensure employees are using private and secure connections.

2. Create systems to protect employee work devices 

While many businesses account for digital hackers and scams, theft of laptops and other devices can be harmful to your organization. Ensure employees take steps to protect their work devices from theft, loss, use by others, and damage to keep clear of unseen threats. Additionally, keep detailed records of company property in the event that a device is stolen or goes missing.

3. Remind employees to set strong passwords

Just because your workforce is remote, it doesn’t mean employees should be lax about setting strong passwords for work devices and accounts. In addition to creating hard-to-guess passwords, workers should also refrain from re-using passwords across separate accounts, writing passwords in places where family members or guests could see them, and using password managers that automatically allow users to log in to accounts.      

4. Ensure employees use good digital hygiene 

Is your remote workforce engaging in good digital hygiene? Best practices such as installing computer updates frequently and logging out of work accounts when using a shared computer are crucial to keeping you protected. The following are crucial digital hygiene reminders for your remote workforce to keep in mind:

  • Reset passwords often, and don’t reuse old passwords.
  • Turn computers and devices off at the end of the day instead of setting them in ‘sleep’ mode.
  • Log out of all work accounts if working on a shared device.
  • Install system updates as soon as possible to prevent hackers from exploiting out-of-date operating systems.
  • Keep from entering passwords in public or crowded places where hackers snoop.
  • Don’t leave laptops or other work devices unattended in easily visible spaces, such as airport terminals, coffee shops, and cars.
  • Do not engage with solicitous emails from unknown addresses containing suspicious links or other red flags.  

5. Use encryption tools and safe practices to protect sensitive data

It pays to encourage VPN use among all remote work employees to ensure end-to-end encryption. In addition to company-wide VPN implementation, decide who on your team needs access to the entire organizational network and which employees only need access to email and cloud-based services.

While VPNs are great for secure network connections, employers should always look for any security patches, fixes, or updates to VPNs to prevent hackers from gaining access to internal data. At the same time, VPNs don’t protect against every threat—using multifactor authentication can act as another safeguard against potential VPN phishing attacks.   

Finally, make sure employees know to look for potential “shoulder surfers” and other bad actors who might be attempting to steal logins or passwords—after all, no VPN can protect against wandering eyes.  

6. Have employees work in a separate space while at home 

All work-at-home employees should have a separate office space for work. This reduces the chance that work-related materials, such as flash drives, physical files, and password notebooks, aren’t lost in kitchen junk drawers or bedroom dressers. Additionally, doing so can keep nosy guests from gaining access to work files or passwords.

Stay up to date with work-at-home cybersecurity guidelines 

It’s everyone’s job to make sure your business remains safe from potential hackers, phishers, scammers, and other cybercriminals. Keeping employees updated on the best ways to prevent threats is an essential step toward safeguarding your organization—and those you serve — from harmful attacks.

Cybersecurity Series:

Part 1: Ransomware: A Prescription for Prevention

Part 2: Making the Case for Multi-Factor Authentication

Part 3: Protecting Your Cloud-Based Enterprise: It’s Everyone’s Responsibility

Part 4: The Hidden Risks of Mobile Devices and Removable Media